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French kill Web piracy bill, by accident

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Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP

(Read caption) French President Nicolas Sarkozy supported the piracy bill. Now, his UMP party must resurrect it.

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France's parliament unexpectedly rejected a bill that would have cut off Internet access to users who have been caught illegally downloading files at least three times.

The legislation easily passed through an initial phase. But then, for French conservatives – and US music labels. Many lawmakers took an early Easter recess and missed Thursday’s vote. This gave the Socialist Party a chance to shoot down the bill, which they consider an intrusion of personal privacy. It failed by a vote of 21 to 15, according to the AP.

President Nicolas Sarkozy's conservative UMP party must now introduce the bill all over again. Another vote could come as soon as this month.

The law would have forced Internet service providers to cut off a user’s connection after repeated accusations of music or movie piracy. Supporters said the three-strikes approach would dissuade people from stealing online.

Opponents warned that there was little recourse to prove one’s innocence and that the punishment didn’t fit the crime. After all, they argued, Internet connections are an essential part of modern life – not just a means for pilfering MP3s.

American music companies eagerly anticipated this French legislation, and hoped it would provide a model for future laws across the pond. It still could. Sarkozy’s office plans to resurrect the bill "as quickly as possible."

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